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The Gothic

A Reader


Edited By Simon Bacon

What is the Gothic?

From ghosts to vampires, from ruined castles to steampunk fashion, the Gothic is a term that evokes all things strange, haunted and sinister.

This volume offers a new look at the world of the Gothic, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its reemergence today. Each short essay is dedicated to a single text – a novel, a film, a comic book series, a festival – that serves as a lens to explore the genre. Original readings of classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) are combined with unique insights into contemporary examples like the music of Mexican rock band Caifanes, the novels Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer), Goth (Otsuichi) and The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the films Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) and Ex Machina (Alex Garland).

Together the essays provide innovative ways of understanding key texts in terms of their Gothic elements. Invaluable for students, teachers and fans alike, the book’s accessible style allows for an engaging look at the spectral and uncanny nature of the Gothic.

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Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) – Female Gothic (Kathleen Hudson)


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Kathleen Hudson

Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

Early Gothic romances, the works produced between the publication of Horace Walpole’s foundational 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto and the mode’s decline in popularity in the 1820s and 1830s, are usually divided into two sub-groups in Gothic criticism. Categorizing such novels as ‘Female Gothic’ and ‘Male Gothic’ gives readers a means of differentiating between the various writing styles and generic tropes present in Gothic fiction at this time. However, while ‘Female Gothic’ does describe early Gothic texts written predominately by women, this is not to say that such texts are defined exclusively by gendered aspects. Rather, the term suggests a distinct understanding of the Gothic in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a mode which prioritized the exploration of hidden terrors and repressed emotions, and reflected certain socially or morally informed female-focused anxieties.

Ann Radcliffe, who published five Gothic novels between 1791 and 1797, is considered by many to be the most prominent of the Female Gothic novelists, though many aspects which define this sub-genre were first articulated in earlier works by Horace Walpole and Sophia Lee and were echoed through the 1790s and 1800s by authors such as Eliza Parsons, Regina Maria Roche, and Eleanor Sleath. While not identified as ‘Female Gothic’ texts at the time (the term itself was coined by Ellen Moers in 1974), works by these authors articulate parallel negotiations of social, political, and moral...

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